April 15, 2020 // National

News Briefs: April 19, 2020

Dominicans donate beds to overflow facility for COVID-19

DETROIT (CNS) — The Dominican Sisters of Peace were putting their affairs in order, getting ready for their final act of service in Oxford, Michigan. In September 2019, the congregation voted to sell its motherhouse and grounds, including the St. Mary’s Retreat House it has been operating for 60 years. The sisters closed the retreat house March 8 — but God wasn’t quite done yet. Dominican Sister Rita Birzer, director and administrator of the retreat center, said the community was set to donate the center’s beds and linens to the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit House Into Homes, until she received a phone call from Dave Raymond from Trinity Health. “(He) also works with the group that provides homes for the homeless,” Sister Birzer told Detroit Catholic, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Detroit. “He knew about our beds, and knew they were trying to supply a place for an overflow facility for St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, but they didn’t have any beds.” On March 30, St. Joseph Mercy arranged a team to pick up the beds from the retreat center. After a brief check for bedbugs, the hospital system claimed 60 beds, bed linens and desks from the retreat center to be used in St. Joseph’s auxiliary facility in Ypsilanti for overflow COVID-19 patients.

Appeals court lifts lower court ruling blocking federal

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A federal appeals court decision April 7 lifted a lower court ruling that had prevented the execution of federal death-row inmates. And although the decision sided with the Trump administration’s attempt to resume federal executions after a 16-year break, it does not allow these executions to resume immediately because it sent a legal challenge against the means of execution, filed by a group of inmates, back to a lower court for further review. The 2-1 decision was handed down by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Each judge on the panel also issued separate opinions about the legal guidelines for federal executions that U.S. Attorney General William Barr had announced would resume last summer. In November, just weeks before the first scheduled execution, Judge Tanya Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for D.C. issued an injunction blocking four scheduled executions. A fifth scheduled execution was separately stayed by a different court. The federal judge said the lethal injections to be administered to federal death-row inmates in December and January went against the Federal Death Penalty Act.

Pandemic is prime time for conversion, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The COVID-19 quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are the perfect opportunity for conversion: for individuals, for the Church and for governments, Pope Francis said in an interview. “What we are living now is a place of ‘metanoia’ (conversion), and we have the chance to begin,” Pope Francis said. “So, let’s not let it slip from us, and let’s move ahead.” The pandemic crisis is an opportunity to reflect on how people use their time and resources, how the Church responds to new pastoral needs, how society has allowed the economy to be the first consideration when making decisions about people’s lives and how governments still spend billions on weapons when they cannot provide adequate health care to all their people, the pope said in the interview published April 8 in the U.S. magazine Commonweal and the British journal The Tablet. Austen Ivereigh, an author and journalist, submitted written questions to Pope Francis; the pope sent an audio recording of his responses, in Spanish, April 3. Asked how he is living the lockdown, the pope responded, “I’m praying more, because I feel I should,” and he is trying to focus on the needs of other people because “it takes me out of my self-preoccupation.”

Canadian priest volunteers to be incarcerated rather than leave inmates

TORONTO (CNS) — With the federal prison system shutting down all visits, a Catholic priest has volunteered to be incarcerated rather than leave inmates without spiritual care. “He offered to go there and live in the institution 24-7,” said Bishop Gary Gordon of Victoria, British Columbia. “For a bishop to hear that from a priest, you say ‘OK, this is what it’s all about. This is the vocation — lay it on the line.’ It’s really beautiful.” As COVID-19 infections begin to emerge in prisons, spiritual care for inmates has dwindled amid growing anxiety over the dangers faced by inmates and prison staff alike. Bishop Gordon, who is the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ representative for prison ministry, said the priest who volunteered to remain with inmates has a deep and long commitment to prison ministry. For privacy reasons he would not divulge the name or location of the priest to The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly based in Toronto. As the official Canadian bishops’ liaison with Corrections Canada, Bishop Gordon hopes to persuade federal officials not to completely cut off prisoners from their chaplains. “If someone is gravely ill, then the priest should be allowed to bring them the holy anointing of the sick and viaticum,” he said.

On Holy Thursday, pope thanks God for world’s priests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Unable to invite Rome’s priests to mark Holy Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis thanked all priests for their service and called those who died ministering to the sick and health care workers part of the community of “saints next door.” More than 60 priests have died of COVID-19 in Italy after contracting the coronavirus while carrying out their ministry helping others, he said during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, broadcast on Vatican media April 9. Because of the pandemic, liturgical celebrations with the pope have been pared down to the essential, eliminating or postponing optional rites and celebrations. For Holy Thursday, the usual morning Chrism Mass with Rome’s priests was postponed to a later unspecified date; the optional foot-washing ritual was omitted; and the traditional procession with the Blessed Sacrament at the end of the Mass was also omitted, with the Eucharist placed directly in the tabernacle. In the past, Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass in detention facilities, rehabilitation centers and with refugees. This year, the pope presided over the Mass in a vast and empty basilica with a handful of assisting deacons and priests, a reduced choir and a small congregation of about a dozen people, including Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica.

Bishop, faith groups urge Trump to support debt relief for poor nations

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two leading proponents of debt relief for developing countries urged the White House to lead the call for a moratorium on debt payments for poor nations so they can devote funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The request came in an April 8 letter from Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of faith-based development and advocacy groups. The letter said a moratorium would aid the 76 poorest countries while safeguarding U.S. economic interests. “The leadership of the U.S. government is vital to ensuring that our world will emerge from this pandemic with greater resilience and a renewed understanding of the greater interconnectedness of humanity,” the letter said. A decision to suspend debt payments would allow for a better way to assess debt sustainability and vulnerabilities and, if necessary, open a process to restructure debt, the letter added. The request comes as the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers from the European Union and industrial and emerging market nations were preparing to discuss the issue during meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank starting April 14.

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